Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Kate & Leopold – Cinderella With A Twist

Written by Steven Rogers and James Mangold
Directed by James Mangold

One common complaint is that movies often fall into the “predictable” category. While it’s nice to have something unexpected happen, there are times when predictable doesn’t really detract from the story. I’ve found this to be true usually in the case of a romantic comedy. It’s pretty much a given that by the end of the story the two main characters will end up together. A good movie will bring the audience on a fun journey, and sometimes take a very different path to get there.

Kate & Leopold is a typical Cinderella story. Two people fall in love. One is not who he appears to be. It’s a race against time for him to return to his world, and for her to decide if she wants to be a part of his. In a nutshell, that’s the story.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Hugh Jackman is Leopold, Duke of Albany, a rich man’s son who is more interested in the future and has his head in the clouds than anything else. One night he runs into Stuart (Liev Schreiber) and sees him photographing a society party they are both at in New York City circa 1876. There are some great shots of the Brooklyn Bridge under construction. A chase ensues as Leopold goes after Stuart and both fall from an upper portion of the bridge.

Meg Ryan is Kate, a market researcher/product tester. In her first sequence, she is testing a romantic movie against a test audience. She’s been involved with Stuart in the past and deals mostly with reality, not the fantasies and visionary outlook that Stuart and others (such as the director whose film she’s about to slice and dice) have.

It turns out Stuart is Leopold’s great-great-grandson. This means that at some point, Leopold must return to the past or Stuart ceases to exist. When Stuart gets hurt, Leopold is left in the care of Kate and her brother, Charlie (portrayed by Breckin Meyer). “Leo” is exposed to a wide variety of experiences in modern-day New York, including a mugger, a nightclub, and an audition as an icon for the newest margarine on the market.

Kate is a career woman. A dinner with her boss, J.J. (Bradley Whitford) who is obviously trying to get her in bed shows just how invested she is in her career. Leopold is something of an alien in her world – he is still chivalrous, doing things such as standing up whenever Kate leaves the table. Much to Kate’s surprise, she finds herself enjoying these acts which have disappeared from society over the last fifty years.

I found myself liking the movie despite its shortcomings. Hugh Jackman is fantastic as Leopold. He carries himself with just the right air of regality that he’s believable as a member of the nobility, while at the same time pulling off fitting in with those, not of the privileged class in modern New York. Jackman was believable as both men, even when he was wandering around downtown New York City in clothes from one hundred years before. Without him, I doubt the movie would have been as good as it was.

I don’t know if the same can be said for Meg Ryan. I think she was cast in the role because of her previous work in films such as Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally. There’s just something here that’s missing – she doesn’t have that same spark that she did in those previous films. I was also terribly distracted by her hair – I thought it was a horrible, harsh cut for her. While that might sound like a minor complaint, it kept me thinking about her hair and not about the story.

Liev Schreiber surprised me as Stuart. I’m used to him playing the creepy guy in films from The Manchurian Candidate to Phantoms. Here he is a past romantic interest of Kate’s and the man who accidentally brings Leopold back in time. I was surprised at just how well he pulled this role off as in my mind he had become somewhat typecast. There’s a bit of the gross-out factor, though, when I realized that if Kate and Leopold got together and Stuart is Leopold’s great-great-grandson….

Breckin Meyer is a nice bit of relief as Kate’s brother, Charlie. He’s an acting wanna-be who’s pining for a girl he doesn’t think he’ll get until he starts taking pointers from Leopold. There’s a good balance between Charlie and Leopold and I thought the scenes between these two were some of the better ones in the film.

There were two versions of the film available on the DVD: the Original Theatrical Cut and the Director’s Cut. I viewed the Director’s Cut so I can’t compare it to the original. The deleted scenes included in the Bonus Material weren’t on the Director’s Cut either, so I don’t know how the two compare.

The story is sweet and I didn’t come away feeling like I’d wasted my evening watching it. That’s about the best recommendation a romantic comedy can get in my book. There’s not going to be anything new or dazzling – it’s just a fun bit of escapism for a few hours. Kate & Leopold delivers on that, putting Hugh Jackman in a Cinderella-like role which he handles better than I would have initially predicted.

Long Island Joke:

Leopold : …so we may toast to my bride to be… the future Duchess of Albany… Kate McKay… of the McKays of…
Kate: Massapequa

Bonus Material:

• “On The Set” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes (available with commentary)
• Commentary with director James Mangold
• Photo Gallery
• Costume Featurette
• Sting “Until” Music Video

3 replies »

  1. Despite its flaws this film remains one of my favourites in the genre and I’m glad you found it enjoyable too. It’s all too easy for people to dismiss Kate and Leopold as an unworkable time travel romance, but it’s the sparks of reluctant romance (at first) and humour that energize this movie.
    Another film in similar vein which I like is A Prelude to a Kiss with Meg Ryan and Alec Baldwin. It’s much maligned but the chemistry between Ryan and Baldwin is very good. I like Meg’s hair better in that one too!

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